Lawyer of Iranian Pastor on Death Row Faces Prison

May 16, 2012 by Open Doors in General

Iranian Human Rights Lawyer Faced Prison Setence

On April 28, an Iranian appeal court upheld a nine-year prison sentence handed down last July against Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, the head defense lawyer in Iranian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani’s death sentence appeal case. According to Amnesty International, the charges against Dadkhah included “membership of an association seeking the soft overthrow of the government” and “spreading propaganda against the system through interviews with foreign media.” The sentence also includes a 10-year ban from practicing law and teaching.

Dadkhah has been defending embattled Iranian pastor Yousef Nadarkhani in his appeal before the Supreme Court of Iran. Yousef was found guilty of “leaving Islam” in September of 2010 and sentenced to death by a court of appeals near Tehran. Since then, the pastor and his lawyers have been attempting to appeal his sentence. In June of last year, the Supreme Court of Iran upheld the lower courts guilty verdict and sent Nadarkhani’s case to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei for a final decision on his death sentence. It is not clear yet what effect Dadkhah’s imminent incarceration will have on Nadarkhani’s case.

Compass Direct News reports that Dadkhah is co-founder of Iran’s Center for Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) which was forcibly closed in 2008. Many of CHRD’s members are already serving jail terms for challenging human rights violations by the Iranian government. Though the well-known human rights lawyer’s sentence was issued within a month of the high court’s ruling against Nadarkhani, an expert on Iran believes that, “Dadkhah’s arrest has been coming for a long time, so it’s not a surprise. The surprise is that he’s been able to practice for such a long time.” Dadkhah is one of the few lawyers in Iran willing to risk his career and personal safety to defend the religious and political freedom of Iranians. The source told Compass Direct News, “Many of the Christians who face court hearings do so without legal representation. Simply by taking on a case of which the government disapproves, a case which challenges the government, would be high risk for a lawyer.”

Iran ranks fifth on the Open Doors World Watch List of the 50 countries in which believers experience the most severe persecution. An anonymous expert on Iran commented that Dadkhah’s sentence, “… is not good news. My sense is that the rule of law in Iran is abused, and the decisions of the Iranian courts are unpredictable and at the whim of the authorities. Pressure on Iranian believers has only intensified in recent months with several home raids and dozens of believers arrested. Mohabat News reports that Iran’s Revolutionary Court recently sentenced Farshid Fathi, a believer who has been interned at Tehran’s Evin Prison since 2010, to six years in prison.

Father, we know that Your hand is not shortened and You are still the ultimate authority in Iran. Work mightily on behalf of the embattled believers in Iran – prompt judges to reverse court decisions against them and to release those already in prison. You have seen the decision against Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, that he is being punished for defending Your people. We ask that not only would the court’s decision be overthrown, but that this situation would draw Dadkhah to You. We know that all things are possible for You, Adoni. Please soften the heart of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and cause him to repeal the death sentence against our brother Yousef Nadarkhani. And give the church in Iran strength to pray as the disciples in Acts that You would look upon the threats against them and grant them greater boldness to speak the truth.

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